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Ought Six's Excellent Panama Adventure -- Day Three

Posted 05-16-2011 at 01:57 AM by Ought Six
Updated 05-17-2011 at 09:50 PM by Ought Six

Saturday, 7 May 2011 – The Gamboa Rainforest

I woke up early, checked out of my crappy hotel, and hit the road, headed for the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. I stopped and got some coffee and empanadas (meat-filled turnovers) at a Kotawa Coffee, the local version of Starbucks (though they have those, too). It was pretty mediocre, about like Starbucks.

The drive to Gamboa was really beautiful. Gamboa is an old American settlement at the south end of Lake Gatun, a reservoir that serves as the central part of the Panama Canal. The Chagras River, the largest river in Panama, runs into Lake Gatun at Gamboa, and provides the primary water supply for the canal's operation. The Gamboa Rainforest Resort is on the Chagras a few hundred feet from where it dumps out into the end of the lake. It is an impressive facility in a tropical setting that mere descriptions cannot do justice to. If you go to Panama, I strongly recommend you spend a day or two at the Gamboa Resort. It is less than 25 miles from Panama City, but it is a whole different place.

On the road to Gamboa:






The 100+ year old bridge over the Chagras River at Gamboa:



I got there at 11AM, and they told me I could not check in until 3PM. I asked about a couple things I wanted to do there at the tour desk. I booked a trip on the monkey boat ($37.45) that left in a few minutes, not leaving me time to get lunch first. So I grabbed my bag, the shuttle bus arrived, and off I went.

The monkey boat tour goes along the shore of Lake Gatun for a couple miles. There are lots of islands, and some very interesting wildlife. They pull right into shore so you can see it. I saw a tree sloth, some iguanas, and a bunch of little, tiny baby crocs. But then we went to where the troops of monkeys hang out. The boat captain and tour guide put out bananans and kiwis on the bow of the boat, and the monkeys jump from the trees overhanging the water right onto the bow, the sun canopy over the seats, or onto the canopy supports to grab the fruit. One lady had some kiwis with her, and the monkeys swung along the side of the boat on the canopy supports to take the fruit right out of her hand. It was pretty cool.

I got back, had a coffee out on the patio of the bar, then checked in. The rooms are really nice, and they are only $150 a night. Not bad for a resort like this. They ran out of single rooms, and gave me one with two queen beds. The appointments were what you would expect from an expensive resort.

I then booked the aerial tramway tour. ($37.45 for the 4PM one without the hour's worth of 'exhibits' beforehand). The tramway is a small open cable car that goes up the side of a mountain through the forest canopy to the upper station. Then, a short hike takes you up to a 25 meter observation platform at the top of the mountain with a breathtaking view of the Canal, the Chagras River and the little town of Gamboa. There were three of us; myself and a couple. The husband of the couple and I spoke English, but the wife did not. The tour guide was a charming, very cute young woman who was a student studying to become a professor of Panamanian history. She would explain something, then we would chat while the husband translated it into French for his wife. Thus I had some intelligent conversation with a very smart, nice girl about local history and the indigenous peoples. It worked out rather well. I really recommend this tour as well. They also offer kayaking, fishing, birding and other outdoor activities for reasonable prices. Gamboa is a must-see.

Some funny-looking guy at the top of the observation platform:



The resort is the only place around, and the restaurants have tourist prices. After the monkey boat tour, I went to the restaurant next to the landing.



The lunch buffet was $22! I do think I got my money's worth, however. The food was really good, and I loaded up on seafood, and had a little chicken and pork ribs as well. The desserts were quite good. I am not a coconut fan, but they had the best damn coconut macaroons on the planet.





I got back around 5:30PM, changed into my trunks and watched the sunset at the pool. The beauty of it cannot be put in print. A great way to close out a great day.

For dinner, I decided not to go whole hog (and whole wallet) again. I went with a cheaper menu option at one of the resort restaurants and had a fillet sandwich with grilled onions and coleslaw. It was excellent, and cost me only $13.50.
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